Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RIP SMG (and Alien Covenant)

Well, megaposter SuperMechagodzilla has gotten himself permanently banned from the movie forums at SomethingAwful, It was over his general style so even if he were to get unbanned somehow, the mods have made it clear they don't want him. He's not the type to go start his own blog or something, he seemed to only emerge from that particular forum-context, so that is probably it as far as his contribution to film analysis goes. Truly it is the end of an era.

It's fitting that on the same day Freddie deBoer wrote a subcultural analysis piece that pinned SA as the origin of "ironic left" chatter that has taken over the remains of the Bernie movement
Something Awful spawned Weird Twitter, the presidential primary and elections of 2015–2016 caused Weird Twitter and Left Twitter to merge, today the default form of engagement in online left spaces is that weird, aggressive descendant of Something Awful style, and as online life drives membership increases in real-world left organizations, that style of engagement threatens to colonize those spaces as well. 
I find it all unhealthy, for many reasons. One of which is that Corbyn-style sincerity is much healthier for left discourse than nth-degree irony.
SMG was one of the most sincere left-wing commentators out there, deriding irony and "just my opinion lol" as a cowardly escape from responsibility for your opinion. So how does a brutally sincere voice remain in a sewer of irony?

Well, it was that anti-relativism they got sick of. From the explanation for the banning:
No, I banned someone for being a condescending asshole in literally every post he's made in the last year, after being told to cool it down multiple times. 
I posted something similar to this when I gave him his month probation, but I'll do it again. I don't hate SMG. I think his style of film criticism and reading is something that is unique and often adds a lot to a thread that isn't just whitenoise "this shit sucks/this owns" bullshit. But constant "my opinions are better than yours and you're an idiot for not agreeing with me" posts are probatable, and always have been. SMG's good at coming up with interesting takes, but he's also good at being a condescending prick. It takes two seconds to remove the "You're reading me wrong, pay attention or go away" from that post and there's no problem with it. That's my bottom line.
Heaven forfend in liberalism that someone think their opinion is better than others, and actually say so. On a website known for its caustic rudeness, I guess slurs are less verboten that defending what you say.

Anyway, SMG was in the middle of an exhaustive analysis of Alien: Covenant, so I'm going to put what he had written so far here. It was good stuff!

Everything below here is written by SMG, who is not me. "***" separate different posts.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What Would Wonder Woman Do?

I usually take more time to reflect on a movie and analyze "how it worked" before I can post really thorough reviews. The text does not need immediate reaction, and that sort of pressure usually leads to meme-style analysis. (Plus it's 10 days until SMG is off his ban, so I can't even see his contribution.) And once more DCU movies have come out, hopefully I'll return to them.

But Wonder Woman's themes were so pronounced, that it's easy to at least write something the day after. Obviously, spoilers below (in fact, this really won't make much sense without seeing the movie.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Terrible Defenses of Good Things Are Still Terrible

Because click-bait and internet capitalism overall functions on a cycle of fashion where cool things must be called uncool to secure status, and vice versa, we're starting to see more defenses of the Prequel Trilogy. Well, a stopped clock still has a non-functioning gear mechanism and we can take it apart even when it happens to point to the right time.

Tor gives us "10 Reasons Why Attack of the Clones Is Better Than You Remember" and they are bad reasons. They are designed to convince with a liberal-humanist outlook towards movies that this movie fits that, rather than convince people that the archetypical storytelling it does really is worthwhile. Which makes them double failures, since no Episode 2 is not a good example of that sort of film making, and that film making is not superior (though there are very good examples like Blade Runner.)

1. The Unseen Adventures of Obi-Wan and Anakin

That doesn't occur in the movie, so you shouldn't be judging the movie by it. It's relying on a hoped for complexity that humanizes the characters and makes them sympathetic to us, when that does not exist and doesn't matter.

2. Count Dooku: It’s Christopher Lee.
Enough said.
While Lee was a good choice to play Count Dracula, you could at least say a lot more about him and his role. Why do you want a face synonymous with arrogant villainy to be the stand in for a dark clone of the good guys?

3. Jedi Noir
While Anakin and Padme were off…er…romancing on Naboo, Obi-Wan was following the trail of the assassin who tried to kill Padme. Like a Jedi Sam Spade, Obi-Wan operates in the shadows as he follows the trail of the assassin and uncovers a plot that’s bigger than he ever could’ve imagined. In the process, he fights Jango Fett in the rain, gets captured by Count Dooku, and come this close to being fed to the arena beasts on Geonosis. All part of the job for Obi-Wan Kenobi, P.I.

Obi-Wan is a bad detective. He ignores Anakin when it's protrayed as obvious that Anakin is correct and something much larger is wrong than just the assassination attempt. He couldn't find a missing planet unless his down-to-earth low-class alien friend told him things that aren't in the Jedi library he relies on. He walks into trap after trap, only to advance the enemy's goal of giving the Jedi an army to fight with. Nothing Obi-Wan does in Episode 2 is supposed to be good. The good part is supposed to be laughing at him.

Though that is still noir in a Chinatown sort of horrific way.

(Hint for viewers of Chinatown: you are not supposed to come away respecting Jake.)

4. The Nuances of Anakin’s Downfall

Just no.

Anakin is a whiny proto-fascist. We are not supposed to sympathize with him. We are supposed to see how badly the Jedi fucked him up and understand how someone could become a tool of dark powers. There's no nuance, it's an ethical pratfall.

5. Those Arena Monsters
Say what you will about the use of CGI in the prequels, but the three monsters who are unleashed on Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme in the arena on Geonosis looked terrific. And that scene is vintage Star Wars.
Okay this point is true, but doesn't explain anything beyond "they look terrific." Like how each monster is a metaphor for the sexuality of the good guy they menace, or how they are homages to film making legend Ray Harryhausen.

6. Jedi Battle

It's an anti-climactic battle that both diagetically serves as set up for a trap, and exegetically as lack of satisfaction so that the real, muscular military fight can feel much more cathartic, and for us to cheer when Anakin fires on and destroys a sheep of fleeing non-combatants.

7. Ewan McGregor

There are a dozen things that people have remembered for fifteen years from the Prequel Trilogy. Jar Jar. Chancellor "I am the Senate!" Palpatine. Mace Windu. CGI Yoda. Even Anakin is memorable. There are reasons no one ever talks about McGregor's performance.

8. Kamino.
Kamino has always stuck out as one of my favorite locations in the Star Wars galaxy. It’s also, to me, the place where the prequel aesthetic—which carried directly into the animated series, The Clone Wars (more on that soon)—really cemented itself. In The Phantom Menace, the universe doesn’t expand all that much. We return to Tatooine, and we’re never given much of a sense of Coruscant. Which leaves us only with Naboo, which was fine, but it was nothing like Kamino. Kamino exposed us to something new and, quite frankly, super weird and cool. That city on stilts in the ocean—occupied by tall, lithe aliens who specialize in making clones—kickstarted a fresher take on the look and feel of the Star Wars galaxy.
Okay yes this is true. Star Wars ultra-homogeous worlds are excellent representations of the characters' internal states.

9. Coruscant Nightlife

Eh? The point of this glitzy portrayal is that it's all a mask. Real Coruscant isn't like this - it's either halls of power, or the dingy underclass at the bottom of all those vaulting buildings. The nightlife act is full of fakery - it's a wild goose chase for a false lead, there's even a shapeshifter. Everything's not real and this is the sort of hyperreal CGI world the trilogy is mocking (which match its references to Blade Runner aesthetic.)

10. The Clone Wars

Again, you are talking about things outside the movie, hoping they add depth and complexity to things the movie specifically chose not to.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Since the transformers.pdf went around recently, this reminded me that my favorite film analysis was by SMG on Ridley Scott's Prometheus. (paywalled link, but the relevant text is pasted below so don't worry.)

This is an insanely good thread about existentialism, horror, and simulation, which made me really appreciate the movie more and was largely responsible for my thoughts about horror and meaning (and of course my previous post on the movie.)

I've gone through the thread and selected the posts that present this analysis. It's very long, and you have to get used to the in-media-res of assuming SMG is responding to some argument without seeing it yourself, but it lays out the connections between film-making and how we define our own reality with clarity and wit. It's also incredibly arrogant and ungenerous to his interolocutors, but it's better to have an opinion strongly represented that lets the audience choose for itself whether and where it is correct.

Watching the film first is helpful, but not necessary.

Everything below here is written by SMG, who is not me. "***" separate different posts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Some movies to see

Your Name


Both explore very personal and quotidian issues of identity using extremely blatant metaphors. It's not even worth dissecting, but if you like "high brow cinema that is trying to be entertaining" then see these.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Sources of All Our Troubles

"The Girl with All the Gifts" is a zombie story by Mike Carey. It takes the common themes about zombies, and is in no way subtle. So they made an incredibly faithful translation of it.

It was only available for a very brief time in theaters, but fortunately you can watch it now.

It's interpretation of zombies, as the degraded subject, is excellent but there's little analysis to do. It's so straightforward that reviewing it would be like the clown car theory of mockery. Just go watch it.

(Do you see the muzzle on the child in the poster? There, you've captured the entire movie in a nutshell.)

What's funny is that the other big work by Mike Carey, was the comic Lucifer.

Which was also translated, into the pseudo-detective television series Lucifer.

Whereas this interpretation is the complete opposite, throwing out the major storylines and the sacred tone of the comic for something completely different. And it is glorious. Lucifer here is a sort of super-slick deity in the sense of nothing in the world affects him, and he only intervenes out of a sense of boredom. It's a detective show where half of every episode is spent convincing the Deus ex Machina to even care. I don't even know what I'm watching, or that I could recommend it, but it's different in a totally fantastic way.